520 Million-Year-Old "Walking Cactus" Could Be Forerunner of Arthropods

By Andrew Moseman | February 23, 2011 2:00 pm

From DISCOVER blogger Ed Yong:

Around 520 million years ago, a walking cactus roamed the Earth. Its body had nine segments, each bearing a pair of armour-plated legs, covered in thorns. It was an animal, but one that looked more like the concoction of a bad fantasy artist. Jianni Liu from Northwest University in Xi’an discovered this bundle of spines and named it Diania cactiformis – the “walking cactus from Yunnan”. And she thinks that it sits at the roots of the most successful group of animals on the planet.

If Liu is right, Diania is one of the earliest relatives of the arthropods – the group that includes insects, spiders, crabs, and more. These species all share a segmented body, a hard external skeleton and jointed legs. They are life’s winners, the most diverse of all animal groups.

For plenty more about this weird ancient armored creature, check out the rest of Ed’s post at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

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Image: Nature

  • Robert S-R

    D’awww! Now I want a plush cactiformis!

    But more seriously, is this creature a link between worms and arthropods, or totally unrelated?

  • Hammer

    It’s the cactus from Super Mario Bros.!!

  • Jumblepudding

    Nature IS a bad fantasy artist. Have you ever seen sharovipteryx? Jim Henson in 1982 couldn’t dream that one up.

  • mike

    logic and basic common sense tells me god is forerunner of arthropods lol

  • Camille

    Whoo hooo! I think this was a creature Stephen Jay Gould described in ‘Wonderful Life’, a great book about the diversity of life in the Cambrian period.

  • mike

    robert s-r if you deny the existence of god then yes this thing is related to them

  • Reuben Clamzo

    Looks like something between the arthropods and onychophora (velvet worms). Very cool.

  • mike

    there can only be 2 explanations 1. god the creator 2. we make up fairy tales that the impossible can and did happen .

  • mike

    mike behe has a book came out few years ago that just destroys any notion of major evolutionary change taking place so look into it

  • Robert S-R

    Thanks for the offer, mike, but my reading list is a mile long and I’m currently enjoying Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Death by Black Hole. Neat stuff. If you have time, maybe you can read it and tell me what you think.

    Oh, and this is just my point of view, but the two options you provided in your comment #8 sound suspiciously similar…

  • Zach

    Robert-S, come on man don’t feed the trolls.

  • mike

    there’s like 100 million fossils in the musuems with not a single trasitional species too be found maybe your just optimistic that they will find 1 one day lol

  • Dr. Evil

    Oh dear…

    Every species and indeed “individual” can be considered transitional.
    If not morphologically, then genetically, at birth, and by environmental exposure through maturation.

  • John Burton

    The Big Spook theory is for mouth breathers and gaping apes. Only those who think they have had some supernatural information pretend to answer these questions and the unknowable, the impossible, the unfathomable is the realm wholly occupied by the inspired.

  • John Burton

    Also, on the question of creation, the barbarian knows exactly the same as the scientist, the fool as the philosopher and the chimp as the pope.

  • vel

    not even remotely, john burton, not even remotely. One has evidence and research, the others do not.

  • Jumblepudding

    Creationists, please return to your echo chambers of wishful thinking where you can BS about the hebrew totem god that loves you and is going to send us all to eternal fire for mocking him. You will save no souls here, nor will you convince anybody of anything but that you’re an idiot with a bad case of confirmation bias.

  • mike

    johnny you probably know more then i do actually i think you do but the difference is i dont pretend to know everything about evolution knowbody has any clue to how the universe began to exist from nothing yet by believing in random accidents creating perfectly designed creatures you claim to have infinite knowledge that this happened why?

  • mike

    for example a dog will always be a dog even a 50 million or 100 million years in the future if there’s no mass extinction there will still be dogs they will not change into fish or lizards understand? lol

  • mike

    dr. evil if not morphologically? wouldn’t we have to be if we were all related? lol

  • Zachary

    See, when you engage the idiots they take over a post and kill interesting discussion. The adults talk upstairs while all the children play around in the basement, we don’t need to go down and talk to them.

  • Sam

    The diagram has 10 body segments…

  • Jane

    @ Mike
    O boy…. You know almost nothing about evolution, yet your convinced your right and every real scientist on this planet is wrong and you have to try tell everyone this. If you every get a chance please go to the smithsonian in DC there is seriously 20-30 transitional fossils on display for humans alone! Wake up man Evolution is not even debated anymore, it is fact of life. Do yourself a favor and start looking at other sources for knowledge besides ones that already agree with your childish opinions. The process of evolution is well understood and can be proven by a mountain of evidence besides fossils. Open your eyes there are hundreds of religions what makes you think yours is correct?

  • michael David

    I do not question evolution, there is way too much evidence supporting it. But I do think that evolutionists are just as capable of biased thinking that potentially could hold back science. All I mean is, I think evolution will go through some massive revisions in the next 100 years. And although I agree with creationists in the fact it is next to impossible to answer why the universe is here, it still follows rules and evolutions is a major force to be reconed with. At the same time, I think it is safe to say that once a creature such as ourselves starts to become so self aware of the universes rules that we modify orginisms, we can not rule out the idea that part of nature may be a legacy of creatures more advanced then ourselves. I am not saying for certain that this has happened. But it would be rather unscientific to rule it out completely for fear of feading creationism.

    Cause even if evolution involved many levels including this form of creation. Where did “they” come from, evolution. I am not implying we were created, but there is the potential that our gene’s may have a legacy of another more advanced creature by any number of means including direct involvement. I personally think even though I do think there is the potential that other creatures with different make ups then our could evolve and in a way that is far different then ours, I imagine life in our section of our galaxy is made up of very simular genetic code. And the alternitive to direct modification, there is the potential that a species intentionally started a pan sperm movement to try to speed up the evolution of their surrounding planets to preserve some of their progress.

    There are instances of people having ancestral memories. I am a strong believer that nature is far more wonderious then any creationist or current evolutionist can imagine…

    But it seems we are so stuck in this nature nurture debate of evolution, wether its creation or evolution that we are missing many other possibilities that are actually combinations. I am not really worried if there is gods, but there very well could be demi-gods hell bent on preserving their legacy and any number of potential histories of life on earth have not been ruled out.

    (sorry about the bad spelling and grammar, too lazy to edit

  • michael David

    I meant I am not worried if there is a GOD,

  • mish

    Why do some people always try to turn any mention of evolution into a religious debate? Have you ever asked yourself why you think that evolution clashes with your belief system? Do you even know why you believe it? Is it because someone else told you to believe it or because you actually “logically reasoned out” the idea on your own? Do you know what “logic and reason” mean? They are actually not the same thing as “belief.” Belief is quite a different thing entirely, and it’s what religion is based on, by its own definition. Go ask a priest if religion is based on logic and reason, or belief. Which answer do you think he’ll give you? So if religious beliefs are, uh, based on BELIEF, then why are you claiming that your ideas are based in logic and reasoning? Are you saying that the same processes used in science are used to formulate religious ideas and beliefs? So, science and religion are the same? If they are, why are you questioning evolution at all? According to your own “reasoning,” the “creationists” and the evolutionary theorists all part of one big happy family. Oh, by the way, the idea of extinction is one of the precise things that drives evolution so don’t try to use it to argue against evolution; that just shows you’ve never even read anything on evolutionary theory. No evolutionary theorist thinks that any animal “changes into” any other animal through some kind of miracle. One species goes extinct and another similar one survives, because one of them was fitter than the other to survive. After a certain amount of time, genetic selection causes morphological change (have you ever seen a Pekingese sitting next to a Pit Bull? THEY ARE THE SAME SPECIES that have been changed through genetic selection–incontrovertible proof of an evolutionary process in action). Some of these changes lead to such a genetic gap that the animal can be classed as a different species. It’s not as “magical” as you make it sound. It’s actually, well, quite logical.

  • Alexandria

    why can’t people read an article about this topic and just read it.. not have to say the arthor is wrong and that thier personal opinion is fact? sometimes people want to be educated and when you read stupid comments like what i just read it makes me wonder why i read topics like this.. @mike, you’re religion is your PERSONAL OPINION.. you may agree with those with a simaliar opinion but it is un fair to tell others that thier personal opinion is wrong.. honestly facts do prove evolution, and to you that may be false but more people accept evolution and make it thier personal opinion than those do for religion.. religion is (to me) a learned trait, not fact. you learn the religion (sunday school) no one is born religious they are made religious. but everyone is born as a human that evolved through many different stages.. you can not say it doesn’t exsist. though many can say a ‘god’ doesn’t exsit. you see my point? you use your opinion as fact and those like me and the others commenting on this use something called facts.. they don’t compare to each other becasue you will and always will lose when you pit your opinion against fact..

  • Trevor

    God does not exist.

  • LT

    Bible is a story book. No way possible a human being was made from the rib of another human being (adam & eve). That should eliminate all credibility right there.


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